Some school uniforms found to have high levels of PFAS chemicals, new study says

High levels of a chemical the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says have been linked to harmful health effects have been found in some school uniforms used by students in the U.S. and Canada, a new study says.

The study from the Environmental Science & Technology journal analyzed 72 children's textile products -- particularly school uniforms – that were marketed as stain-resistant to see if clothing "represents a significant route of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)."

PFAS chemicals have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s, according to the Associated Press. PFAS can be found in fire-fighting foams, food packaging materials, nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, and countless other consumer goods.

The study's synopsis says high PFAS levels in school uniforms could be a significant source of exposure to the chemicals for children.

"Children's exposure to PFAS is of particular concern," the study says. "Due to their lower body weight and sensitive developmental period, children's exposure may result in a greater body burden and higher health risks compared to adults."

The EPA says PFAS are widely used, long lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time. They say because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment - many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. They say PFAS are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment.

The agency says that there are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and they are found in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products making it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks.

In August 2022, the EPA is proposed to designate two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) -- perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), including their salts and structural isomers -- as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund.

Read the full study online.